Tools of the trade for the modern candlemaker
As small business owners, we know all too well, that with the rapid growth of online business we need to stay up to date on the best ways to operate. There is so much information out there, that it can become overwhelming. Whether you are a new candlemaker, or a seasoned expert, I’m sure you will have noticed how the industry has evolved.
The good news
With the availability of worldwide distribution, candlemakers can enjoy working with modern waxes with greater capabilities, hundreds of fragrances from many different sellers from all locations and a growing selection of glassware, vessels and molds. You also have the opportunity to ship world-wide. It has never been a better time to make candles and take advantage of the products on offer.
The bad news
Competition in the candle market is high, with many people starting out new candle businesses too! A lot of people throw around the term ‘saturated market’, but this gives negative connotations to something you can take advantage of! More candle businesses mean candles are everywhere, which is a great thing as it reminds your buyers that it is something they must have - it is in front of them all the time and candles are only becoming more popular with consumers!
Many candle businesses gives weight to the product, and has created a need for it amongst buyers, PLUS it pushes businesses to be innovative and create a product that stands out. In this type of market, with lots of buyers, all you need to do is find your point of difference and find new ways to create your brand and market your product.
There are lots of free and cheap tools to help a modern candlemaker build a brand which stands out and builds a following of excited candle lovers! Let’s explore what’s on offer.
I am sure you have heard of this incredible site! Canva has created a platform for the non-designer to explore their ideas and get it down on (figurative) paper!
This site is perfect for people who want to DIY their graphic design but don’t know their way around Photoshop. There are templates galore for creating logos, social media posts, price lists, label designs - the list goes on!
However, Canva is not without its limitations. Unfortunately, all miraculous things come at a cost. While Canva is great for creating all things digital, it is not great at creating print-ready files. Designers (like Long Story Short Design & Print) encourage the use of tools like Canva to show your ideas, but ultimately the outcomes are always better when they can use what you have created as inspiration and recreate your designs on professional design software. This way your labels are crisp, sharp, no words are cut off and everything is aligned as it should be.
Canva is a go-to for so many businesses looking to flex their creative muscles and bring some of their design in-house. So have a go, but remember designers are always there to lend a helping hand.
It’s free to use (though you can upgrade for more features at a pretty reasonable price!) and simple to learn. The paid features include creating your own brand toolkit, with custom fonts and colours, which are just a click or two away when you’re trying to keep designs “on-brand”.
Best of all, it was founded by a woman in Sydney.
This one may be a surprise! But cardboard is one of the best tools for photography.
Find a spot with great lighting (you may have to watch the sun over a day to see when it shines somewhere with space for you to take photos) and use a sheet or two of cardboard to create a scene for your candles.
All photos accompanying this post were created in the afternoon sun, with humble cardboard as the backdrop and on an iPhone.
Your phone camera
There’s a good chance that you’re reading this on your phone OR it’s sitting next to you while you’re doing some research for your business. Your phone’s camera is probably all you need to be selling your candles or products online.
Modern phones have fantastic cameras and by learning how to use it, you can take some great pictures of your products!
If you’re selling your candles on Etsy, Madeit or your own website, photos taken on your phone are perfect because the quality will be good enough to provide a crisp and clear photo, but the image won’t be so big as to slow the load time of the page. A fast page load time is one of the factors that helps rank your site higher in Google searches.
A few quick tips to take your photos to the next level:
Make your candle the focus of the photo. A simple background is effective, and you don’t need to get too fancy with other accessories or products. Show off your candle, because that’s what you’re selling.
Read up on the rule of thirds regarding photography and art. It’s a concept that may help you to take more appealing photos and something you can implement straight away by fiddling with your settings on your phone.
If shooting your candles front-on, ensure that the photo is straight up and down. When candles are straight up and down, they look neater. Most new phones will do this for you automatically in editing.
My favourite is “Color Story”. It has simple premade filter settings which can be added to your photos to create consistent colouring. The basic settings of editing, like cropping and brightness are also easy to use. When you save the photo, it can be saved to a grid so you can see how your grid on Instagram would look too!
Some other popular editing apps are Snapseed and VSCO. Find one you like and keep the editing consistent so your social media looks fab.
This visual social media site is a fantastic way to show off your range of candles and find new customers. Take advantage of the Stories feature to show your work behind the scenes, how you make your candles, helpful tips for getting the most from your candles and safety tips.
Talk with your potential customers and other candlemakers to build your following. There are many marketing podcasts, youtube videos and blog posts which are dedicated to sharing information on making the most of Instagram.
If you’re about to launch or have started selling candles, I’ll bet you’ve poured a tonne of candles! The testing to make the perfect candle can be time consuming, expensive and frustrating. Keep notes on your candles from the get-go and keep them organised!
A notebook may suit you, or if you want to keep it all in one place, try the Vinyl Tester Labels from Long Story Short. You can add in the details as you make and burn or plan it out in advance. Trust me when I say - the better your notes are now, the more money and products you’ll save in the future!
If the written form isn’t your best skill, download the extension for Grammarly. It will pop a red underline under any text you write and help you fix any funny grammar moments you’ve had.
It’s free to use (though there is an upgraded version) and will help point out the silly mistakes you might make if you’re in a rush. It’s just as good asking someone else to proofread your work.
Nose lethargy is a thing! Our noses work so hard and get tired quickly. Can’t smell your perfume an hour after putting it on? That’s because your nose has already taken it in, loved it, and is now not focusing on it.
If you haven’t labelled your candles and need to go by smell to identify them, keep some coffee beans handy. Have a whiff of the beans to restart your nose and make it that much more effective.
Coffee beans are also handy to have at markets if you’re selling in person. Your potential buyers may suffer from this nose lethargy as they have a smell of all your candles, so the coffee beans allow them to recharge and keeping smelling.
Technology is rapidly changing our world and how we do things. Take advantage of the tools and information at your fingertips to build a memorable brand and take pleasure in learning new skills. As we all know, running a candle business isn’t only about making candles!
About the author
Leonie O’Brien is the founder of Pretty Frank and has been making candles with soy wax in Sydney since 2016. Her passion for the environment has led her to make Pretty Frank as green as possible. When she's not pouring candles, listening to podcasts or writing blog posts, you can find her with her handsome dog, a kelpie cross named Frank.